Irregularities In The Landscape : The Travel Photographer
Documenting vulnerable and changing ecosystems, we caught up with adventure travel photographer Mr Colin Rex.
We've been following world nomad and adventure travel photographer Mr Colin Rex's work, for many years. Ensuing his move to Colorado USA, we caught up with Mr Rex to find out more about outdoor life in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains and review his minimal and often abstract landscape photography.
Could you introduce yourself and where you’re from?
I’m a commercial photographer specializing in landscape, travel, and adventure content for outdoor brands. I grew up in North Carolina, USA, and have been living in Colorado since 2018.
What inspired you to start taking photographs?
I spent all my free time as a kid playing sports, and when that changed in college I found myself staying active by exploring my local mountains. Not yet knowing what career I wanted to pursue, I became really interested in travelling and spending as much time outside as possible and brought my cheap camera on all my adventures. I liked how the camera made me experience and appreciate my surroundings in a more intimate way, and learned to see colours and light more carefully and purposefully. I made it my mission to have photography fund my travels, and started shooting small projects for friends and local brands.
What is it you are aiming to capture in each of your photographs?
When you search for pictures of a popular place, they tend to look similar and are often taken from the exact same viewpoint. While many outdoor photographers focus on expansive landscapes and colourful sunsets, I find myself fascinated with the elements and intricate patterns that make up the environments I find myself in. I regularly use a 70-200mm lens to single out smaller features and irregularities in the landscape and incorporate lots of negative space to give my photos a clean, minimal feel.
The overall goal of my work is to document vulnerable, changing ecosystems and inspire people to consider their relationship with nature.
What are your top locations to shoot around the world?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to spend the last few years travelling, and have immersed myself in vastly different landscapes from the islands of Croatia to the rugged mountains and glaciers of Patagonia. Each destination has so much to offer, but I’ve been drawn mostly to cold and desolate environments completely different from what was accessible in the southeastern United States. After a handful of trips to Iceland recently, I’ve fallen in love with the volcanic mountains and volatile terrain in the highlands region and could spend years exploring the area. Since my move to Colorado, I’ve been captivated by the arid desert scenery in neighbouring Utah, whose twisting canyons and towering red rock formations make it feel like the surface of Mars.
Could you tell us about any fun brands you have had the opportunity to work with?
Some recent highlights include a wild film shoot in the Icelandic highlands with Bearclaw Bicycle Co, and a weekend in the desert with Raleigh Denim Workshop and a few good friends. I’ve been doing all kinds of work with a new company called Rocky Talkie that makes a rugged mountain radio, which has been a blast to shoot during all kinds of outdoor adventures from climbing to backcountry skiing, and am currently working on an unbelievably exciting product launch with Sea To Summit — check back soon!
Why is Iceland so special to you, and are there any Islandic based photographers you admire?
Iceland is a world-class adventure travel destination for a good reason.
The whole island is like a museum of crazy landscapes and otherworldly terrain, packed full of glaciers and active volcanoes. From native Icelanders like Ragnar Axelsson to recent inhabitants like Benjamin Hardman, so many people have documented the island in unique, surreal ways. I first visited Iceland to tag along on a photo workshop with Benjamin and Jarrad Seng, and have returned four times over the past few years.
Getting to locations can be an adventure in itself, have there been any vehicles you have enjoyed most travelling in?
From Vespa scooters to snowmobiles, suitable modes of transportation depend completely on your destination. Recently I’ve come to realize that bicycles allow a perfect balance between connecting with your surroundings and covering a solid amount of ground, making them an amazing way to explore new terrain. I also had the opportunity to drive a super modified Land Rover Defender around Iceland for a few weeks and felt like I could go anywhere I wanted. In the future, I’d love to experience a sailing expedition or shoot aerial photos from a small plane!
How has COVID-19 affected or changed the way you work?
Adaptability is the name of the game when it comes to freelance photography. With international borders closed and tourism discouraged, I saw the shutdown as an opportunity to further explore my local wilderness. Being in Colorado, I’m lucky to have access to world-class mountains and deserts within a few hours drive from home, and have tried to make the best of the past year by becoming more familiar with my surroundings. I spent the month of August following some endurance athlete friends on a mission to link California’s highest peaks under human power — an adventure I’ll never forget!
What camera equipment do you usually pack for a trip?
I’m a big believer in packing light and making do with what you’ve got.
If I had every lens in the world I’d still bring only one or two whenever possible. Currently shooting with a Canon 5D Mark IV (planning to make the mirrorless jump soon) and a small selection of Canon L zoom lenses for versatility and weather sealing. I also use a DJI Mavic Pro drone, and protect my images and camera gear with Lacie Rugged hard drives and Pelican cases.
Apart from camera gear, what else do you pack to maximise your trip and why?
The same philosophy applies here — the idea is for everything to be as versatile as possible. Having worked for Arc’teryx for years, I’ve amassed an embarrassing arsenal of technical outdoor gear and become an expert on microclimates and layering systems. Wearing wool base layers and rugged outerwear can maximize your time out in the elements by keeping you comfortable when the conditions get rough.
Are there any places you would love to visit or photograph in the future?
Svalbard, Greenland, Kyrgyzstan, Antarctica, I have an endless list!
A dream career would involve using my photo skillset to document the delicate Arctic climates we take for granted and motivate people who don’t have the chance to visit these places to care enough to protect them.
Apart from a passion for photography and travel, what else do you enjoy to do in your free time?
I spend most of my free time the same way I spend my work time — exploring the mountains around me on foot, bike, and skis. Otherwise, I enjoy hanging with good friends, watching live music, and playing pick-up soccer.
Any future goals and business interests you could tell us about?
At some point, I would really love to lead a product photography workshop, where I could help people become better with their cameras while showing off my beautiful Rocky Mountain surroundings. Also want to plan and host a bikepacking race in the desert — more info to come ;).
Favourite Movie: 2001 Space Odyssey
Favourite Book: Big coffee table books (check out Atlas of Remote Islands) and artist autobiographies
Lesser-known app: Gaia GPS! Great for backcountry navigation
Favourite weekend trip: Desert debauchery in Moab, Utah
Wine, beer or liquor: Big time craft beer nerd
Travel hack: Save money and sleep outside
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ADVENTURE FIELD WEAR